January 17, 2018

Leaving Las Vegas: 5 Fab Side Trips

If you think Las Vegas is only for high rollers, think again. The so-called casino capital also offers a lot to visitors in search of spiritual experiences (rather than financial gain). Of course, it doesn’t have to be either/or. You can have your neon-lit decadence and your soul-feeding fun, too.

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On the Strip, for instance, check out The Chandelier at the Cosmopolitan. The cocktails at this three-tiered glitzy luxury lounge are, thanks to the head bartender’s background in herbal science, mind-bending, imploring you in some cases to blow puffs of dry ice through your nostrils (great for that dragon-inspired Boomerang you’ve been meaning to post on Insta). For post-drinks snacking, head to Blue Ribbon for gourmet fried chicken and mashed potatoes in gravy. And, yes, hit a couple slot machines up as well—hey, when in Vegas.

Main drag done (and done well), here are five spirit-fuelling mini excursions worth making while in Vegas. —Sarah Rowland

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creative fix. The Arts District is in Vegas (a.k.a. 18b) is often overlooked because it’s a few derelict blocks away from the Strip. But it’s definitely worth visiting this tiny enclave of creative artists and collectors. Find funky antique shops, galleries, vintage vinyl and great thrift stores such as the always-dependable Buffalo Exchange. If you get hungry in this hub of all things retro, Casa Don Juan is a great down-home Mexican restaurant, while your thirst can be quenched at whimsical watering hole the Velveteen Rabbit—and eclectically decorated space that stretches out past the back door, across the alley and into an empty parking lot where you can, depending on the occasion, take in some live music and BBQ bratwurst. (Photo courtesy of Courtesy of Buffalo Exchange)

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history hit. When you’re on the new Strip, you won’t feel any of that old-school Rat Pack vibe (tiny little wedding chapels notwithstanding). But have no fear, that’s what Old Vegas (a.k.a. downtown) is for. The city has turned this part of town into an outdoor museum with all the historical neon signs of yesteryear rehomed on the main boulevard. Mixing new and old, L.V. has also started curating some vibrant new street art and world-class graffiti murals. Bonus: the eating and drinking establishments in this area are standalones (as opposed to roofed under mega-resort complexes), making Old Vegas perfectly suited for a pub-and-art crawl. (Photo courtesy of City of Las Vegas, Erin O’Boyle Photographics)

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sky-high spirituality. While in Vegas, you have ample opportunity to tick another must-see destination off your travel bucket list: the Grand Canyon. If you book a tour through Sundance Helicopters, you’ll get door-to-door pick-up service from your hotel to the chopper pad. Once in the skies, you’ll soar over stunning landmarks with a vantage point like no other. Before heading back to your hotel, you’ll get a chance to walk on a glass walkway nearly 4,000 feet above the Grand Canyon floor. With the soft sounds of traditional Native American music in the background, the experience is both humbling and exhilarating. It’s hard to imagine a better way to see this natural wonder.

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river rejuvenation. Another way you can connect to nature with door-to-door pick-up service is through Vegas Glass Kayaks. Tour the serene and awe-inspiring Colorado River in crystal-clear vessels, explore caves, take a refreshing dip and picnic on a pristine beach. In addition to the scenery, what makes these particular tours so worthwhile is the charismatic couple who run the company. Personality plus! Note: No drinking on the water, but when you get back to the bus, there’ll be a cold one waiting for you—nice touch, no? (Photo courtesy of Spencer Findlay)

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desert dose. When’s the last time you giggled uncontrollably? It’s probably been a while. Cue Pink Jeep Tours, which also offer free pick-up and drop-off. First stop on the Red Rock Canyon tour is the Visiting Center, where you’ll discover a desert tortoise habitat. And, if the sight of these beautiful creatures doesn’t make you slow down and come back to the present moment, the stunning panoramic vistas will. This tour also includes an up-close look at some ancient pictographs and, of course, off-roading in the rugged terrain. This rollicking, bumpy ride feels like an amusement ride for adults. Who knew getting tossed around like a ragdoll could be so much fun! Good for the soul, indeed.

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